Couples say 'I do' to custom Snapchat wedding filters

Nothing says romance quite like ... Snapchat filters. They're quickly becoming a must-have for today's weddings.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
4 min read

On-demand geofilters for Snapchat are growing in popularity, especially for weddings.

Christina Fowler, Snapchat

For brides to be, looking for something new may include Snapchat filters specially designed for the big day.

Snap began offering sponsored filters tied to location in 2015, allowing companies to purchase ad campaigns for the social network. (Think Disneyland's filter, which adds Minnie Mouse's bow and ears on top of your photos with "Disneyland Resort" framed on the bottom) Then a year ago, the feature, which lets you add artsy overlays, was made available for people just looking to use them at parties, holidays and weddings.

Starting at $5, you can create your own filter for eight hours, tied to a location and the surrounding 20,000 square feet. Snap already provides templates for "Weddings" with 18 different designs. Of the thousands of geofilters being created every day, weddings are the most popular for Snap, according to a person familiar with the company.

That Snapchat filters for weddings are even a thing speaks to the pervasive nature of the social network. The company boasted in its IPO filing last week that an average of 158 million people use its app every day. The idea of wedding filters has become so popular that couples hire graphic designers just to create them for their special day. On Etsy, custom Snapchat geofilters have their own marketplace and can sell for up to $100 (roughly converted to £80 or AU$130), though the average price is between $10 to $20.

During the wedding season between April and September, Christina Fowler, a graphic designer based in Sacramento, California, receives about five to 10 requests a week. This includes Snapchat filters for the bridal shower and the bachelorette parties, she said.

For a fully personalized filter with a custom illustration of the couple, Fowler's rates can go up to $30, with a turnaround time of three to five days. She sends her clients a questionnaire to get details on the couple the same way a wedding planner would.

"For weddings, custom Snapchat geofilters really appeal to millennials since we're constantly documenting our day-to-day adventures via social media," Fowler said in an email. "It's already expected that their friends and family are going to be posting photos and videos of their wedding to social media -- especially Snapchat."

Snap declined to comment on how much it earns from on-demand geofilters.

Snap decisions

When Courtney Palafox tied the knot last August, she requested two geofilter designs from Fowler. She wanted her wedding to stand out and to give an interactive experience for her guests.

While she only took a handful of Snaps herself, Palafox's guests flooded her with pictures and videos using the custom filters, one of which superimposed the couple's names underneath the images.

"The next day, I was able to go back and look at everyone's Stories," she said. "It made me relive the moment."

It was instant gratification for Palafox, compared to the two months she waited for her wedding photos.

A year later, Palafox finds herself looking at the Snapchats she saved more than the photos from hired wedding photographers. She dropped $3,500 for a pair of wedding photographers, compared to the $70 for the geofilters.

The photographers couldn't compete with the paparazzi-like guests snapping away every second, she said.

"I found myself looking at the geofilters more because my photographers didn't capture too many good moments," Palafox said.

Shoot to thrill

Enlarge Image

Often times, people pulling their phones out to take shots ruins the photo for wedding photographers.

Taylor Lauren Barker

People using their phones at weddings to take mediocre pictures is nothing new. Wedding photographers have been putting up with it for years, dealing with logistical nightmares from people stuck on their phones.

The new twist is that with Snapchat, these photos won't even last. While people can always go back to your Facebook and Instagram profiles to look at the pictures again, Snapchat pictures and videos are designed to disappear within 24 hours.

You're also not allowed to download Snaps from other people's accounts, meaning that the amazing moment your friend might have captured is gone forever if he or she didn't download it in time.

It goes against conventional thinking, especially when wedding photographers are hired to take photos that will last forever, versus Snapchat's appeal of capturing candid, evaporating moments. It speaks to change in how we value the present, even if not everyone agrees.

"It's a huge step in life... but when you're tinkering on your phone and trying to find the perfect filter, you're not present and there to celebrate," said Taylor Barker, a New York-based wedding photographer.

She's seen custom Snapchat filters being used at weddings, and thinks they're pretty cute. Just not when the bride is walking down the aisle and everybody is leaning over their seats to take a photo and ruining her shot.

During the reception and on the dance floor, sure, snap away and slap the filters on. When it's the big moments, just enjoy them and let the photographer work, Barker said.

Barker spends two to three hours the day after the ceremony to send the newlyweds preview photos of their wedding, and then takes another four to six weeks to edit and deliver the entire package.

On Snapchat, it takes up to a day to have the filter approved, and a few swipes left to get your filter on. Even if you expect your love to last forever, those Snapchats won't.

"There's a time and a place for everything, and I would say the same for Snapchat at weddings," Barker said.

Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."

Special Reports: All of CNET's most in-depth features in one easy spot.

Originally published at 5 am PT, updated at 12:11 pm PT: To clarify the difference between Snapchat geofilters and Lens.